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Photo: Hana Tajima for Uniqlo

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You Can’t Have a Bad Hair Day in a Hijab

Even though you can still have a bad hijab day.

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I used to wake up each morning with the possibility of a bad hair day. I would use a curling iron to control errant waves, or just straighten it when I couldn’t deal. But so often, there would be flyaway hairs keeping me from perfection, or a sudden downpour that would make me look like a soggy mouse.

No more. I now wear a headscarf. My mom and sister had already decided a few years before I did to start wearing hijab. No matter the debate around whether wearing a hijab is compulsory for Muslims or not, I believe it is a part of my religion, and so I started preparing myself mentally to cover my hair. I'm not sure what my hesitation was, because as soon as I took the plunge one random day, I haven't looked back. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be, and now I cannot imagine going scarf-less. And my bad hair days (at least in public) are a thing of the past.

Is there such a thing as a bad hijab day? Sadly, yes. When you’re wearing a fabric that is just too slippery, or you mysteriously lose your straight pin halfway through the day, every few minutes involves patting and tugging and checking whether your hijab is still on straight. Choosing stretchy or softer fabrics that “sit well” has come with experience, so apart from those (rather rare) bad hijab days, wearing a hijab has made my life, and my beauty routine, a lot easier. I can whip on my hijab in under a minute and be ready to leave the house. And my hair has felt the benefits, too.

I remember an old teacher of mine once remarking on how much her skin improved once she started wearing the full niqab (the word “hijab” is used to refer to the head scarf, but the niqab is the full face covering). While I’m not there yet, I have at least noticed the benefits of keeping my hair under wraps, even though my face is still prone to the elements.

My sister (who also wears the hijab) has gorgeous long, thick hair, and whereas both of us were previously plagued by split ends, we hardly ever need to apply heat too close to our hair nowadays, so our ends are healthy, even though we often forget to go for a regular trim. Come to think of it, I haven’t cut my hair in over a year, and what would usually look like a dry and ratty nest still looks pretty decent. Safe from sun, wind, dust, and other pollution, my hair feels stronger. My natural curls had started to dissolve into a frizzy kink, heat-wary and tired-looking. Happily, my curls have revived after a much-needed rest.

The downside is that whenever I take my hijab off, I am in a constant state of hat hair. The top is generally flat, and the bottom varies. For example, if I have chosen a simple bun for my under-the-hijab-do, the bottom manages to stay wavy. But I have found that the better option is a French braid, which helps to retain some volume on the top. I also need to remind myself to change the side of my part every once in a while, to avoid the line becoming way too rigid.

Wearing a hijab doesn’t mean that my hair is completely forgotten, relegated to an afterthought (or an underthought). I do occasionally style it just for being at home or for a ladies-only party, but more often than not, my hair just lives its quiet life naturally. And just like everyone else, I still have to take care of my hair. I catch a few rays in the backyard a few times a week. Add to that the usual wash routine and some occasional trims, and me trying not to tie my hair too tightly underneath, and my hair is good to go. I also have to make sure that my hijab are washed regularly. But if I forget to wash my hair, no worries — there’s always tomorrow. Nobody will notice today! And when I do feel the need to give my hair some extra nourishment, I can wear a hair mask or some plain old olive oil under my hijab all day and no one notices.

Wearing a hijab has also resulted in another happy outcome for me. I used to twirl my hair around my fingers, to the irritation of my mother; a nervous habit, perhaps, but one that I could not break. I know a girl who used to pull out her hair, an even more painful habit than mine. Wearing the hijab was an immediate and effortless cure because easy access to loose strands is limited.

Even though most hijabis get a break from keeping up with the latest in hairstyle trends (if they choose to!), there’s a whole arena of hijab styles and fancy ways of tying couture hijab that would satisfy any fashionista. I opt for simple looks because they suit my lifestyle, but I do try new styles once in awhile for a fresh look. I used to wear a square-shaped scarf, folded in half into a triangle and then tied around my neck. But nowadays, most ladies opt for longer length scarves that are wrapped around the head and secured with a pin. For more complicated wraps, you can find online tutorials with useful images to help figure out a new hijab style.

My hair has become a less worrisome part of my appearance, but ironically, it now looks healthier and seems to grow faster than before. Perhaps I was too fixated on how quickly it grew when I could see it through every passing window and mirror. The forgetfulness that comes with the “out of sight, out of mind” situation means that when I do catch a glimpse of the length of my hair, I am pleasantly surprised by my old friend.

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